Thursday, 18 September 2014

the benefit of hindsight

persistence can be a good thing..but it can also be counter productive..sometimes you don't know if you should persist with something or not..if the thing you're persisting with has a positive outcome you think your persistence was a good thing and you might give yourself a little pat on the back for not being one to give up easily..on the other hand you might persist and persist and then realise that you've just wasted a lot of resources (like time, money, emotional energy) on something that didn't work and you then might blame yourself for not realising earlier that it would have been better to ditch the whole thing in the first place..

my thinking here is all about my sourdough starter which developed a case of black mould while i was overseas in may this year for two weeks..at the time i wondered if i should throw it away but i removed the mould, fed the starter, and it sprang back to life..great..life moved on..loaves were baked and i forgot about the mould..but one day i made my usual baguettes and they were dense..tried again a few days later..same thing..and once more..same..i thought i'd lost my mojo..a while later i thought my starter might be the problem so razzed up the feeding and gave it some intensive care..

i tried every regime possible..all rye..some white and some rye..filtered water..boiled, cooled filtered water..tepid filtered water..warmer environment..cooler environment..but all rye flour is all it likes..even introducing tiny increments of white flour sends it into a funk..i can't tell you how much discarded starter i've had to deal with in the process..couldn't waste it..some of you know what i'm like about waste..i've chucked it in yeasted bread..made too many pancakes for one person..but after all the persistence it's time to take it off life support and arrange the funeral..i now realise that it was on its way out all those months ago..hindsight's funny like that!

although i've started another starter it will be a while before i can bake
sourdough again..so it's yeasted bread in the meantime 

see you..it's time for me to desist..x

Thursday, 4 September 2014

spelt and oat digestives

i haven't bought a dried biscuit in years..they're so many reasons why..food miles, excess packaging, trans fats, high salt content, unsustainable oil (palm oil) and ingredients that require mata hari code breaking skills for recognition purposes..and they're relatively expensive..see i've been known to gobble up a packet of vita wheats generously adorned with butter and vegemite in no time..when i'm peckish one or two little crackers just don't cut the mustard..it's a slice of home made and whole meal bread that does the trick for me..but..there are the occasional moments when a savoury biscuit is just the thing..for instance before a meal with some really good cheese and a little glass of red wine..nothing finer in my mind..

i came across this recipe yesterday and i made it pronto..it came well recommended so i had great faith in it..i think it's just about perfect for what i want and i can't tell you how pleased i am to now have a go to recipe for life's biscuits and cheese moments..

spelt and oat digestives
recipe from here
makes 7 dozen thin digestives


1 3/4 cup oats
1 3/4 cups whole meal spelt flour
1/3 cup muscovardo sugar well pressed down
155 gms butter cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon (tsp) baking soda 
2 tsp salt (i used murray river salt)


~ place the oats and flour in the bowl of a food processor and process until the oats are fine
~ add sugar, soda and salt and process until the sugar is well distributed
~ add butter and process until the mixture looks like bread crumbs
~ add a few tablespoons of milk at a time while pulsing the mixture and until it forms a ball
~ remove from the bowl and knead briefly to form a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for an hour or so
~ lightly dust the work surface with spelt flour, roll the dough thinly, and cut into desired shape
~ cook for 12-14 minutes at 180 deg c

notes: i've included the recipe because the original butter measurement was given in cups and spoons..what's with that? imagine trying to cram butter into a cup especially when it's cold..which it needs to be for these..it also needed more milk..and i've changed the method too to represent my experience of the recipe..it's a great dough to work with because it re rolls well..it doesn't suffer from lots of handling..and it doesn't spread at all when cooked so lots can be baked at once which was good for me because i rolled mine quite thin

Sunday, 24 August 2014

rosemary and lavender cold processed soap

i had to climb over a car to make this soap..and i'm not speaking figuratively..i literally had to scale a celica..it's a mixed blessing letting my son store his vintage car in my garage while he's away for six months..for one thing i had to do a bit of long overdue clearing and cleaning first..it was a case of three days work, nature strip donations and some excited hoarders..one of whom brought a trailer..and i loved being able to help my boy out..the downside is that it's now a mission to get to stuff like my soap making paraphernalia..i did get my boy nick to check that i could access the narrow passage between the car and the stuff stored along the sides of the garage..he did a quick shimmy..i was satisfied it was possible..but later when i tried myself it was a different story..i hadn't accounted for our differences in agility and circumference!

rosemary and lavender cold processed soap recipe
tea with hazel


1000 gms olive oil 
500 gms copha
25 gms beeswax
215 gms sodium hydroxide
400 mls filtered water
a cup or so of rosemary leaves*


~ process 200 gms of the olive oil and the rosemary and leave to infuse for a couple of weeks
~ strain through muslin
~ follow the instructions here for making the soap except after pouring the soap into the container sprinkle with lavender before covering and insulating the container


* i picked the herbs from my garden..i used the rosemary fresh but the lavender i picked and dried last summer..it's a french lavender that doesn't look anything much in the garden and it doesn't smell particularly lavendery when fresh but once it's dried it has the nicest lavender scent of any i've grown..
~ each bar cost approximately $0.65..the beeswax i found at an op shop for $0.50!

 it doesn't show up but the soap is a lovely soft green colour with some pretty shading on top caused
 (i'm guessing) by the lavender

i'm looking forward to using it in a few weeks time

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

herbs de provence and rose olive oil cake

do you remember in the seventies when carrot cakes were all the rage? no..weren't even born then! well..believe me when i say they were de rigueur and cutting edge gastronomy back then..what? a vegetable in a cake? oil instead of butter? wow!

i got on the carrot cake bandwagon with great enthusiasm..come on..i'd just returned to australia after having lived in a small town in the mountains of northern greece for a few years..i was easily excited.. 

one day i thought i was being clever when, instead of using a flavourless oil, i used extra virgin olive oil to make my usual carrot cake..no surprise then that it tasted strongly of olive oil but my taste buds just weren't up to the flavour in a cake even though they were olive oil inured so i reverted to the flavourless stuff..now fast forward to yesterday when i put all of my decades old extra virgin olive oil in cake prejudices aside to make this recipe..the cake has herbs de provence in it too..what? herb de provence in a cake? wow!

i found the recipe for this herbs de provence and rose olive oil cake here when i was looking for ways to use all the grapefruit my girl kat gave me..the flavours in this cake intrigued me but i wasn't sure how i would like them but i think they're wonderful..i thought the rose water* would dominate but it's quite subtle and goes really well with the grapefruit..and the herbs de provence* add intriguing and delightful notes that complement the delicious fruity flavours of the olive oil..not being one to waste much i made candied peel from the juiced grapefruit skins..that was the only thing i did differently..oh..hang on..i did cut down on the sugar a bit..

note: * i used a french rose water concentrate imported by the essential ingredient purchased from here and herbs de provence, brought back from france by my dear friend robyn, that included rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram and summer savoury..

have you come across any flavours that have intrigued and surprised you lately?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

broccoli and stilton soup

broccoli is a vegetable that grows easily in melbourne's winter
 just net the seedlings in autumn when the cabbage moth larvae are still active
or maintain a constant vigil
and two months later you'll be picking 
green bouquets

broccoli and stilton soup
tea with hazel


vegetable stock

2 onions cut medium
2 large carrots cut into medium rounds
2-3 celery stalks cut medium and celery leaves
3-4 parsley stalks including leaves
4 garlic cloves
1 tbs pepper corns
olive oil
filtered water


1 medium onion cut into large dice
6-8 spring onions, including green, sliced
2 medium potatoes cut medium
1 celery stalk sliced
1 green chilli, seeds removed, sliced
2 litres vegetable stock
1/2 medium cauliflower, stalks removed and retained, and florets cut medium
1 large broccoli head, leaves retained, stalks removed and retained, and florets cut medium
olive oil
salt and pepper
50 gms stilton

extras per serve

1-2 tablespoons (tbs) lemon juice
2 tbs fresh sourdough breadcrumbs crisped in bacon fat (or olive oil for a vegetarian option)
1-2 tbs crumbled stilton


vegetable stock

~ saute onion, carrot, celery stalks and garlic in olive oil until the vegetables are transparent and browning on edges
~ cover with water and add parsley and pepper corns
~ bring to the boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 45 minutes, and then strain

broccoli soup  

~ saute onion, spring onions, potato, celery and chilli in olive oil until vegetables are transparent and browning on edges
~ add cauliflower and broccoli stalks, broccoli leaves and stock and bring to the boil, lower heat to simmer ad cook until the vegetables are soft
~ add cauliflower florets, cook until al dente, and then add broccoli florets and cook until just soft
~ adjust seasoning
~ remove a few of the broccoli florets, roughly break them up and set aside, and puree the soup using a blender or stick blender
~ stir through stilton

to serve

~ divide broccoli florets between soup bowls, add soup, drizzle with lemon juice, and garnish with stilton and bread crumbs

polenta, corn flour, biodynamic wholemeal flour and organic white flour sourdough

soup and bread is one of my favourite meals

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

spiral cheese pie with home made phyllo and ricotta (strifti tyropita)

i don't have a bucket list of places i want to go and things i want to see but there are some food related things i want try making again or make for the first time..phyllo pastry has been on my try again list for a long time..i'd made it in greece a couple times and once more years and years ago when i first came back to australia..i had a sense of trepidation at the thought of tackling it again though..who knows why because it wouldn't have been a big deal had it not turned out ok..bins are good for dealing with cooking disasters..

spiral cheese pie with home made phyllo and ricotta (strifti tyropita)
tea with hazel
2-3 serves



500 gms plain flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt (i used murray river salt that is less salty than conventional salt)
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons (tbs) fresh lemon juice


1 cup milk
1/2 cup pure cream
large pinch salt 
1 tbs fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar

cheese filling

100 gms feta crumbled
50 gms grated parmesan
50 gms grated kefalotyri
ricotta (from above recipe)
1 egg
1 spring onion cut fine
1-2 tbs mint or dill cut fine
1/2 tsp pepper


olive oil
sesame seeds



day 1

~ place flour, salt and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer and with the motor running add enough water to make a soft dough
~ knead the dough on low speed for about 5 minutes
~ remove the bowl from the stand mixer, cover the dough with a damp cloth, and rest for at least an hour
~ divide the dough into 10 pieces and knead into balls
~ rest covered for 1/2 hour
~ dust the work surface with flour and roll each piece of dough to about the size of a large bread and butter plate
~ stack the disks on top of each other between sheets of baking paper
~ place in a plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate overnight

day 2

~ liberally dust the work surface with flour and roll two of the pieces of the dough, using a long rolling pin, to large dinner plate size
~ carefully stretch the dough by hand to create transparent thin sheets being careful not to tear the dough* 


~ place the milk, cream and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil
~ take off the heat and add lemon juice or vinegar and stir once
~ leave to rest for a minute and then strain through muslin (i retain the whey for making bread)

cheese filling

~ mix all ingredients and refrigerate until needed


~ line a 22 cm diameter round tin with baking paper
~ brush each piece of phyllo with oil and divide the filling between the two sheets
~ gently spread the filling evenly over the surface of the phyllo
~ roll each piece into a long sausage
~ coil one sausage in the centre of the tin and, starting at the end of the first piece, place the second sausage in the tin
~ brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds
~ bake at 180 deg for about 45 minutes or until well browned


* the dough may tear a little, particularly on the edges, but that doesn't effect the final outcome of the pie
~ unused phyllo will keep for two to three days
~ to make a larger pie to feed extra people increase the ricotta and cheese filling proportionally 

one off the list..and no bin needed!

post publication note: i've made phyllo a couple of times since posting this recipe and i've found that if the dough is rested for an hour it doesn't necessarily need overnight resting..overnight resting is useful though for getting part of the work done ahead of time..

Sunday, 3 August 2014

ethical dilemma

i've been thinking a lot about my food choices lately..it's nothing new though because i've been ruminating for decades..you see there's a part of me that would really prefer to be vegetarian or vegan..actually i was vegetarian for about four years but i reverted to limited meat eating when i became increasingly unwell..

one of the issues that concerns me is the way we have commodified animals for human consumption..it doesn't rest easy with me at all..in hunter gatherer times animals had a bit of a chance but with animal domestication their destiny is now predetermined..treating them well is all fine and good but it does seem a bit weird to go all 'oh i'm so nice to these animals..aren't i such a good person'..and then turn around and kill them, cook them and gobble them up..it's very hansel and gretel..

i've no answer to this dilemma though so i only eat small amounts of meat occasionally that i incorporate and balance with other ingredients..i'm not one to crave a big juicy steak or hop into slabs of meat from spit roasted animals..easter was not a good time for me when i was living in greece..yeah..i loved the ritual of easter sunday's lamb on the spit and all the palaver associated with preparing it and cooking it but i just couldn't eat any of it..

one thing that i've been doing lately is cooking more beans..i used to cook them more..my children grew up on beans and lentils and while i still cook lentils often i've neglected beans in the last few years..i've found that a big batch of home cooked baked beans is a great thing to have in the fridge..for instance, my girl kat came over to do patchwork with me on sunday and instead of me having to make something from scratch and take time away from our precious sewing time together i was able to reheat some beans that i then served on some homemade apple sourdough*** toast and topped with grated cheese and a couple of thin slices of crispy skara bacon..she loved it..i've also been having them for breakfast..and they're great to have on hand for days when i've been too busy to prepare and cook a meal..

versatile baked beans*
tea with hazel


500 gms australian great northern beans**
3-4 medium onions cut fine
2-3 celery stalks cut fine (i used home grown)
2 largish carrots cut fine
1 green or red chilli (i used home grown)
4 or more garlic cloves cut fine
2-3 bay leaves (i used leaves that i stole from a tree in my neighbourhood that's hanging over a fence)
3-4 tablespoons (tbs) organic salt free tomato paste
2 teaspoons (tsp) powdered english mustard
1 tbs treacle
3-4 tbs cider vinegar
1 organic hot chorizo sausage sliced
olive oil
pinch of bicarbonate of soda
salt and pepper


day 1

~ cover beans with water and leave to soak overnight

day 2

~ drain the beans and add fresh water to cover, add bicarbonate of soda, and cook until just softened
~ in another saucepan saute the onion, celery, carrot and garlic until semi translucent
~ add chorizo and cook until the slices are starting to brown on the edges
~ add tomato paste, some of the bean cooking water to loosen the tomato paste, mustard, vinegar  and treacle and mix well
~ add the beans and the bean cooking water and season with salt and pepper
~ tip into a baking dish, drizzle with oil and bake at 180 deg c for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the top is slightly browned


*     yesterday's version
**  they cost me $5.50/kilo..the baking dish of beans makes about 5-6 servings so it's a really cheap but nutritious meal
*** sourdough with grated fresh unpeeled organic apples, organic rye, biodynamic wholemeal and a bit of organic white flour and amaranth seeds

suggested alternative ingredients

~ replace the cooking water with unsalted stock
~ add vegetables and herbs such as capsicum, fennel and/or parsley
~ use brown sugar or molasses instead of treacle or omit altogether
~ use dijon mustard or add mustard seeds at the vegetable saute stage
~ replace the tomato paste with passata or fresh tomatoes
~ omit the chorizo or replace with chunks of bacon or proscuitto
~ use other beans such as lima or haricot beans
~ use good quality left over fat such as bacon or pork fat to saute
~ before baking dust the top with paprika

serving suggestions

~ top with a poached egg
~ serve with sausages
~ add grated cheese and crispy bacon (omit chorizo)
~ serve with a salad
~ sprinkle with fresh parsley
~ use in a jaffle or a toasted sandwich if like me you threw your jaffle iron away

there is great discomfort that comes from the realisation that there is no answer to my problem and that the issue will never go away..i have a tendency to want answers and solutions but sometimes there just isn't one and that's just how it is..